A Vanity Fair contributing editor encourages adult readers to tumble back down the rabbit hole of childhood and rediscover their favorite books.
In his first book, veteran cultural critic Handy, a former writer and editor at both Time and Spy magazines, astutely discusses the central truth about rereading children's books, which is that the experience is equal parts nostalgia and revelation. Focusing on books for pre–young adult ages, he observes that adult rereaders of beloved childhood texts cannot engage with the work without acknowledging the mature perspective that adulthood confers; thus, they will rediscover the works from a new vantage point. A book like this is difficult to write and can be even more difficult to find an audience for. To succeed, the tone must be informative but not pedantic, and Handy nails it, displaying a highly engaging prose style that showcases an impressive ebb and flow of sentence structure and delicate mix of information and entertainment. The author expertly employs his experience as an editor and writer, mingling personal anecdotes with literary history and social commentary while discussing the enduring popularity of Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon or pondering what message Shel Silverstein’s somewhat masochistic The Giving Tree is supposed to teach its young audience. Handy’s candor is one of the book’s most refreshing features, and he invites readers to puzzle through their own complicated thoughts about favorite novels right alongside him. Writing about everything from The Chronicles of Narnia to Where the Wild Things Are to The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the author demonstrates a deep love of children’s literature and a keen understanding of the ways in which reapproaching beloved texts can highlight the connections and differences between a child’s perception and adult reality.
As well-researched as it is seamlessly composed, this book entertains as it educates.